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Commoner Letter #2 – Renata Avila, CC Guatemala


We are honored and proud to present the second letter in this year’s Commoner Letter series, written by CC Guatemala Project Lead, Renata Avila. In addition to her passionate work heading off the successful launch last month of Creative Commons licenses in Guatemala, Renata is also a human rights lawyer and a frequent author for Global Voices Online, an international citizen journalism project. As you will see in this letter, some of CC’s most inspiring stories come from our international community; they help remind us why CC and the Commons are vital and how they have the power to effect positive change in ways that may never have seemed possible.

There are only three more commoner letters left in this year’s series. If you would like to receive them via email, please sign up here. To help keep Creative Commons running, which includes Creative Commons International, please donate today!


Dear Commoner,

The Creative Commons enables us to connect with people from other cultures, share ideas, and solve problems together. It is a tool that gives voice to creativity, and allows us to share symbolic space within society, charting alternative routes to inclusion across the continents, in all languages.

My country, Guatemala, is an amazing place where indigenous communities and Spanish speakers share a diverse cultural space. The diversity extends from the culture to the landscapes, right down to the way we communicate. There are 22 indigenous languages in active use by Guatemalan communities across mountains, two oceans, and 33 volcanoes. Sadly, our country was affected profoundly by more than 30 years of civil strife until the mid-90s, and is only now emerging from a long period of violence and racism, exclusion and social disparity.

Poverty in Guatemala is high and deep, and the country has remarkably unequal distributions of income, resources and opportunities. In my work as a human rights lawyer, I have experienced in a very personal way that the potential of our cultural commons and national heritage is disconnected and unrealized.

Each of our indigenous communities treasures a legacy of scientific and technical knowledge, artistic and aesthetic values of their own, but they need the tools to open their culture to others and share both
ways. We need to find ways to overcome linguistic, technical and social barriers, and build connections with Spanish-speakers completely disconnected from their reality. To create a common culture is a challenge and a necessity to improve living conditions and assure peace. As in many other developing countries, basic necessities such as food, potable water and medical care certainly have priority. But how can we communicate to the world that we are in fact a rich country, in the sense of how we create and preserve culture? How do we connect different visions of the world within the same country?

I decided to spearhead the launch of Creative Commons Licenses in Guatemala as a tool to help connect our cultural commons. Now the Guatemalan Ministry of Education is using cc for a Schools of the Future project with books and materials with Creative Commons licenses to help breach the digital divide. One of the most prestigious universities in the country, Franscisco Marroquín University, have released their online educational resources to the Commons too.

Internationalization and localization of the Creative Commons licenses is more than just a technical, legal process. It enables creative, verbal and nonverbal forms of expression as a vehicle to share and
learn from one another. Through human connections we can discover treasures that reshape our understanding of concepts like “development”, “wealth” and “others”. We can begin to cross the mental
and geographic borders that divide us.

As an author for Global Voices Online, one of the most successful examples of global cultural exchange using Creative Commons licenses; and as a lawyer dealing with the complexities of multilingual, developing countries in transition to peace, I believe that open tools such as the Creative Commons are essential for creating better societies. We have a lot to learn from each other. With this letter I challenge you to allow yourself to be embraced by another world.

Please support the creation of our Global Commons.

Posted 03 November 2008